News / Asia

    Female Korean Political Heir Tapped As Presidential Candidate

    Former Saenuri Party leader Park Guen-hye waves to supporters during a national convention of the ruling Saenuri Party for a presidential primary in Goyang, South Korea, August 20, 2012.
    Former Saenuri Party leader Park Guen-hye waves to supporters during a national convention of the ruling Saenuri Party for a presidential primary in Goyang, South Korea, August 20, 2012.
    SEOUL — South Korea's governing New Frontier (Saenuri) Party has selected Park Gyeun-hye, the daughter of a former dictator, as its candidate for president. Park begins the general election campaign as the conservative front-runner but a liberal political novice may prove to be her most formidable opponent in the December national election.

    The announcement Monday of the winner of the presidential primary at the New Frontier Party's convention came as little surprise.

    The party's election committee chairman, Kim Soo-han, declares Park Gyeun-hye the landslide winner, calling her victory a historical moment.

    For the first time a major party in South Korea has selected a woman - as well as a child of a former president - as its candidate.

    In results combining ballots of party members and citizens cast Sunday)and opinion polls, Park captured 84 percent of the primary vote.

    In her 15-minute acceptance speech, Park notes the country faces numerous challenges, including being affected by the global economic crisis, threats from North Korea and a territorial dispute - although she did not single out Japan.

    Park says this is a time South Korea needs a prepared and stable leader to confront these critical challenges. She says she will never accept any actions that threaten the nation's security or sovereignty.

    The main opposition Democratic United Party is to decide on its candidate next month from among five finalists.

    The DUP's primary frontrunner is Moon Jae-in who served as chief of staff during the administration of liberal president Roh Moo-hyun in the previous decade.

    But many left of center say their best chance to defeat Park lies with a popular outsider and political novice. He is a high-profile university professor who became very wealthy as a software entrepreneur.
     
    Ahn Cheol-soo has not joined any political party and despite increasing hints he will run for president, Ahn has yet to make a formal declaration with just four months remaining until election day.

    Many observers say if Ahn runs as an independent that would split the left-wing vote further easing Park's path to victory. But Jangan University professor Park Chang-hwan does not expect that will happen.

    The political analyst predicts Ahn and the DUP will reach a consensus on a unified opposition candidate.

    Park, who is 60, in 2007 lost the Grand National Party nomination to current President Lee Myung-bak. Under current law the president is limited to a single five-year term.

    Park has earned the nickname “Queen of Elections” for leading election comebacks for the conservatives. Her latest accomplishment in that realm was a widely unexpected victory for the party in elections for the national assembly in April.

    Despite her high profile as a politician, the electorate knows little about her private life. She has never married. Park has previously stated that with no parents, husband or children her focus is solely on serving the nation.

    Political analyst Park Chang-hwan notes the governing party candidate's popularity has been stable at around 40 percent since the last presidential election.

    Park says that rating is a big political asset but her base has not been expanding and she has a weakness attracting the younger generation, moderates and those living in the capital.

    Candidate Park, he says, must learn to communicate better with those outside her core support group.

    Her father, Park Chung-hee, became president in the early 1960's when she was a child. The daughter was thrust into the national spotlight in her early 20's when a North Korean-backed assassin killed her mother in 1974. Park was then regarded as first lady for five years.

    She suffered further personal tragedy when, in 1979, the intelligence agency chief killed her father inside the presidential Blue House compound.

    President Park's 18 years of authoritarian rule, backed by tough martial laws imposed after he seized power in a 1961 military coup, remains a shadow cast over his daughter's quest to win his former post.

    Many in the electorate are still bitter about Park's anti-democratic legacy while others are more forgiving -- considering him a key driver of helping to turn around the economy of an impoverished country that was devastated by war.

    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.